Sunday, 29 January 2012

The Wallflower / Hold Me, Squeeze Me - Etta James and "The Peaches" (Modern 947)



Recorded on November 25th 1954, Culver City. Personnel: Etta James, Abbye Mitchell, Jean Mitchell (The Peaches), Richard Berry (vocals); Don Johnson (trumpet); Maxwell Davis (tenor sax); Big Jim Wynn (baritone sax); Devonia Williams (piano); Chuck Norris (guitar); Chuck Hamilton (bass); Leard Bell (drums); Johnny Otis (vibraphone).

With thanks to El Enmascarado for this 78 rpm disc which marked the recording debut of Etta James. In 1954 the 15 year old Jamesetta Hawkins  formed a female vocal trio (originally called The Creolettes) with two older sisters - Abbye (short for Abyssinia) and Jean Mitchell. The Mitchells in particular were big fans of The Midnighters who had a number one R&B hit that year with "Work With Me Annie", an irresistible piece of double entendre dancefloor stomp composed by lead singer Hank Ballard.

The Peaches wrote an answer song, "Roll With Me Henry" which they pitched to The Midnighters who weren't too enthusiastic. Abbye arranged a meeting with Johnny Otis who was sufficiently impressed by the group and their song to drive them out to the Modern studios at Culver City and a recording session with his band plus Maxwell Davis and Richard Berry. The Otis band remained uncredited on the record as he was under contract to Peacock Records at the time.

Richard Berry contributed  new introductory lines and a vocal which turned the opening and closing verses into a call and response duet with Etta. Maxwell Davis took a customarily classy tenor sax break, and in the background The Peaches wailed and the Otis outfit swung along merrily which all made for one classy piece of rhythm 'n' blues. A less suggestive title "The Wallflower" was chosen for the disc which climbed to the number one R&B spot in early 1955. The pop chart action was grabbed by a cover version (entitled "Dance With Me Henry") by Georgia Gibbs which spent three weeks at the top of the Billboard pop chart in the spring of 1955.

Thanks once more to El Enmascarado for the opportunity to focus on this piece of R&B and rock 'n' roll history, particularly as Etta James and Johnny Otis have now sadly left us.

Source: "Let The Good Times Rock! A fan's notes on post-war American roots music" by Bill Millar, Music Mentor Books, York, England, 2004. Another Boogiewoody recommended read!

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wow- look at that label! It sounds good, though. I thought that was Johnny Otis on vibes. I had no idea the intro vocals were Richard Berry, though. I usually associate him with the original Louie Louie. Big Jim Wynn is cool, too. I've got a 78 of him.

C.Felipe Tenreiro said...

Do you know where can i download The Best of Amos Milburn - (CD) - 2001 - EMI-Capitol Special Markets?

C.Felipe Tenreiro said...

The Best of Amos Milburn - (CD) - 2001 - EMI-Capitol Special Markets?

boogiewoody said...

Hi Felipe - I don't know where you can get that CD from. Perhaps Amazon?

I don't upload CDs on Be Bop Wino. However if you search around the blog you'll find 5 Amos vinyl LPs, including some very rare tracks.

BW

boogiewoody said...

Hi Mr Anonymous. Yep, that is one beat up label, but El Enmascarado has done a stand up job in reviving the sound from a battered shellac disc. I should get him a case of beer for that one.

Actually I'm assuming that it's Johnny Otis on vibes as its his band! He's not listed on any discography I've seen for this disc, but that's probably because he was under contract with another record company when these sides were recorded.

BW